Monday, November 12, 2018

Little Moth by Sarah Vestal


Little Moth

She found a bench in a sunny stretch of the park where children herded about in play. He followed listlessly behind, his eyes trained on the phone in his hand.
   
“Here, moth,” she said patting the bench seat.
   
The sunlight warmed her face pleasantly. She basked in the heat, stretching, and studied the park again. Her eyes hunting. His back slouched, his hand mindlessly fiddling with the phone. When her stomach rumbled, she pulled out the grease stained paper sack that held her lunch.
   
The pink meat of her sandwich had almost slipped from its place. She delicately dissected the sandwich, ensuring she didn’t lose the meat in the process, and righted the ingredients. The moist cheese stuck to her fingers and butter coated her palms. She extracted a napkin and scrubbed her hands.
   
“Have you heard from Sylvia?”
   
“Yes, in the summer,” he said not looking up from his phone.
   
“Her little girl was the sweetest.” Inspecting him, she wiped the side of his face then continued, “She left her last week and I took care of her.”
   
“Uh,” he said.
   
She wrapped her dripping sandwich and fit her mouth around a massive bite.
   
With her mouth full she continued, “We watched some loud and bright show while the oven preheated. And then,” she wiped her mouth after another bite, and pointing to a pair of boys doing jumping jacks, she said, “we did those. They’re great to get the blood pumping and the muscles working.”
   
The man didn’t reply as he dragged a thumb across his phone.
   
“Yeah, she was sweet,” she said.
   
“Yes, in the summer,” he said again. His voice monotone.
   
She groaned around a bite of meat and bread.
   
“You’re a terrible conversationalist.” Glancing at him, she groaned again and used greasy napkins to wipe away the blood that trickled down from the incision at his temple. She grabbed his chin and he did not resist as she turned his face. She inspected the other incision which looked clean. She was grateful that his hat covered most of her handiwork. Releasing him, he looked back down at the bright, colorful screen.
   
“Is your flame burning bright enough, little moth?”
   
Around this point they were all the same. A warm body to keep her company. The screen of the disconnected phone provided enough of a distraction.
   
She ran her tongue along the sweet meat of the sandwich, the juices ran down her chin.
   
“Uh,” the man sounded.
   
“Quite true,” she said drying her face with the bloody napkin.
   
So focused was she on the sandwich that she didn’t see the soccer ball careening towards them until it was too late. The ball solidly smacked the side of the man’s face. He blinked furiously a moment, until she righted his askew phone.
   
“Oh, dear,” she said.

Fishing the ball from beneath the bench, she did the best she could with the balled-up, greasy napkin to get the blood off.
   
“Hey, lady, can I get my ball back?”
   
She turned to find a plump boy staring up at her. “Aren’t you sweet?” She held out the ball. “Come here, little moth.”

-End-

Bio Sarah Vestal is a speculative fiction writer from the endless pine woods of Arkansas. Her writing is earmarked by the unease and peculiarity of the south. If you’d like to read more of her work or if you’d just like to give your eyes a break, then you can find her blog and podcast Twinbrain where she and her BFF discuss Stephen King, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and all things pop culture at: http://www.enterthetwinbrain.com/

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Monday, November 5, 2018

All Things Serve The Beam by Beau Johnson



All Things Serve The Beam

I’ve found it.  It was right where it should have been too, just a little more than halfway down the steps that led to the pantry of Al’s Diner.  In the book it’s a type of doorway used to try and stop Oswald from taking out JFK.

This will not be the case with me.

There are two reasons for this.  One is that things are different than how the Author explained: no set time limit which might reset when any given character attempts to change the past.  The walls are thin here, yes, but it’s not time travel we’re talking about.  Not in the least.
 
The second thing is this: there are other worlds than these.
 
For truth, I think I have found the gateway to stories; to where each of them originate.  It is the story, not he who tells it.  Pretty sure I’ve heard him say this many times throughout the years.  I never believed it though, not fully.  Not until now.  How could I not?  I mean, I have met the girl now, the first one I ever heard told to plug it up.  I was an extra, sure, there in the background amongst the crowd at the prom.  Fortunate for me I made it out before the pig’s blood fell and the doors began to shut.  It was tougher than I imagined too, and heartbreaking, and only because I now stood within what once I only read.

I hope I am making myself clear.  The world I believe depends upon it.

Discovering all this caused certain scenarios to enter my mind, numero uno being this: could I now affect things?  Bold, I know, but the situation itself was beyond anything I ever thought possible.  I think the Author knew this too, or knows, and might have been subconsciously leaving breadcrumbs for someone like me to find.  He needs help is what I think this means.  All told, I’d set my watch and warrant on it.
 
Me saying things like that, this is what has gotten me through.  I’m talking all of it too, every story.  Not just the thing behind the clown or what Ben Mears found in the ‘Lot.  It comes to what things always come to: the Tower.  From one book to the next it seems to be in there or just around, glowing like a buried stone.  Excavated or not, it sings like Susannah and forces me to aim with my heart and not with my hand.
 
Do you see how I have not forgotten the face of my father?
 
I had to investigate though, and I had to be sure.  Onwards I went, from world to world.  From dog to dome to plague; all of it like some mutated Deja vu which tugged at my core.  It means Mordred is in fact a-hungry and Harold Lauder will always jump.  I meet Paul Sheldon, Dinky Earnshaw, and poor Nick Andros before he figures things out.  They speak to me.  Spoke to me.  But none of them for long.  A line or two here, a description of who I think is me there.  It’s as this occurs that I realize the magnitude of what I’m to do.
 
And that Mother Abigail would be proud.
 
I had to test it though, had to be sure.  At first it didn’t work, not all the times I travelled and tried to save Gage from that semi.  The last time however, the last time something new transpired as I attempted to prove what I believe is possible.  The Author brought the child back.  He did so from the grave, yes, but my mother always said a victory was a victory no matter its size.  It also meant I was ready; that I had come into my own.

But I would not go in as Patrick Danville, not as a device placed books before an ending had yet come.  No, I would be new.  I would be fresh.   Becoming everything he required to find his way home.
 
The man in black would flee across the desert, and horn or no horn, I and the gunslinger would follow.

-End-

Bio Beau Johnson has been published before, usually on the darker side of town.  Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Shotgun Honey, Spelk, and/or Story and Grit.  Beau is also the author of A BETTER KIND OF HATE and THE BIG MACHINE EATS.  If anyone asks, he enjoys both Beckys from Roseanne equally.

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Changing Jobs by Bill Baber


Changing Jobs
Clarence Simms had been at it since it was light enough to see. The early afternoon heat was oppressive, the sun beating down from a flat white sky and the humidity like a wool blanket that had been dropped over him.
He removed his cap, wiped the sweat from his forehead and eyes. He could feel the dried salt on his cheeks. Looking around, he muttered a curse.
“Three goddamn days I been behind this plow. Three hot sons of bitches to boot. Reckon I ain’t half way through. “
When he kicked at the earth, dust rose from the first layer of soil. Further down was hard Georgia clay.
“Just wastin’ my time,” he said out loud. “Ain’t rained in a month and it don’t look like it’s about to.”
Picking up the plow, he urged the mare forward. After a few feet he dropped it, unharnessed the horse and headed for the house.
An electric fan futilely moved hot air around. He looked over the place. It hadn’t been the same since the flu took Lizzie back in ’18. She was pregnant when she passed and when she went all his hopes and dreams died with her. Seven years ago. He didn’t know how he had kept on.
In the kitchen, he poured a slug of shine from a mason jar. If he didn’t bring in a crop this year he would lose the farm. There had been two years of drought and he had barely held on last year. The bank had been reluctant to give him a loan.
He had another taste and made a decision. His career as a cotton farmer was over. The time had come for a new one. The time had come to get the hell out of Appling County. Shit, he thought; time to get out of goddamn Georgia.
From the back of the bedroom closet he removed an old J. C. Higgins double barrel .12 gauge. Out in the barn, he placed it in a vice and with a hacksaw, cut 30 inches off the barrel. After wrapping it in burlap, he laid it on the seat of his old Model T. He put a can containing three gallons of gasoline on the floorboard.
Back in the house, he threw a few things into a grip, including a picture taken on their wedding day at the courthouse in Baxley. She had been the prettiest girl he had ever seen and she sure deserved better he thought. Better than me, better than this broke dick farm and better than to die with a baby in her belly at twenty three.
He grabbed the jar of moonshine, walking out without closing the door.
It was fourteen miles from the farm to Baxley on a rough dirt road. A rooster tail of dust followed him like a shadow every inch of the way.
The town seemed deserted. There were only a handful of cars visible on Main Street. He pulled in front of the Farmers Trust Bank and leaving the gun concealed in the thick cloth walked inside.
Mildred Barner, a kindly old woman whom had lived her entire life in Baxley was the only teller working. Woodford Blanton, the manager sat behind a polished mahogany desk. He wore a summer suit. The only sound inside came from the whir of three overhead fans.
“Well, Clarence. What brings you to town on a hot afternoon?” Blanton said with a phony smile on his face.
“Well Woodford,” Simms said with a genuine smile followed by a chuckle. "I’m here to rob the bank.”
Blanton began to laugh until Simms pulled the burlap from the sawed off. Then the color drained from his face and he looked like his lunch disagreed with him.
“Now Clarence, “Blanton said as beads of perspiration broke out on his forehead. “ Are you sure you want to do that?”
Simms pointed the shotgun at the ceiling above Blanton’s head and pulled the trigger.
“Damn sure.”
Small chunks of plaster fell on the bank managers head .He promptly feinted dead away.
Simms turned his attention to Mildred who was looking at him disapprovingly. He had seen that look before. Mildred was a spinster who played the organ and had been his Sunday school teacher at the Baptist Church. He used to get that look when he bothered the girls instead of paying attention to scripture.
“You don’t need to do this Clarence.” He could tell she wasn’t the least bit scared.
“I’m sorry Miss Barner but I do. Give me all the cash.”
As she began to scoop bills into a bag, Simms turned to check on Blanton. He heard a roar like thunder and felt like his mare had kicked him square in the chest. He found himself sitting on the bank’s hardwood floor. Looking down, he saw blood soaking his chambray shirt. When he glanced at Mildred, she held a Colt revolver.
“Damn,” he thought as the sunlit interior of the bank began to fade, “I wasn’t much of a farmer but I guess I weren’t cut out to be no bank robber either. A thin smile crossed his face.
He was ready for whatever came next.

-End-

Bio Bill Baber's crime fiction and poetry have appeared widely online and in numerous anthologies. His writing has earned Derringer Prize and best of the Net consideration. A book of his poetry, Where the Wind Comes to Play was published by Berberis Press in 2011. He lives in Tucson with his wife and a spoiled dog and has been known to cross the border for a cold beer. He is working on his first novel.
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